Patricio Manuel, the world's first transgender professional boxer, is the new face of leading boxing and martial arts equipment company Everlast.
Manuel had a promising boxing career before transitioning, as a USA National Amateur Boxing Champion invited to compete in the 2012 Olympics trials. A shoulder injury prevented that from happening, according to a press release from Everlast. While recovering, Manuel had time to reflect on his life, and decided to come out as trans.
"Once I realized that I was trans, I knew that I needed to live my life being seen as a man,” Manuel told CNBC Make It.
"I realized that I needed to go all-in and risk it all," he said of deciding to transition, even though it meant he might never be able to box competitively again. But instead of giving up on the sport he loved, he battled through the loss of his coach, gym, two jobs, and some friends to both live authentically and make a return to boxing once the boxing commission recognized regulations allowing transgender people into the sport.
On December 8 of last year, Manuel had his first fight since transitioning, winning a match against Hugo Aguilar at the Fantasy Spring Resort Casino in Indio, California.
"I'm incredibly honored to have been selected to tell my story in Everlast's 'Be First' campaign," Manuel told CNN. "Everlast is such a fixture in the sport and to have such an iconic athletic company recognize me as I am—as a professional boxer who is transgender—is a dream come true."
"At a time when transgender people are being questioned whether we have a place in the sporting world or even being recognized by the world at large, for Everlast to endorse me is huge," he added. "It's a bold statement and I think it personifies the saying 'Be First.'"
He said he hopes it encourages other companies to "think outside the box" as well.
"When you deviate from the norms that society has constructed, you have to fight for that identity and you have to really make it yourself," Manuel noted in a video interview for the Everlast campaign.